Jack of all trades: versatile catechol crosslinking mechanisms
Catechols play an important role in many natural systems. They are known to readily interact with both organic (e.g., amino acids) and inorganic (e.g., metal ions, metal oxides) compounds, thereby providing a powerful system for protein curing. Catechol crosslinked protein networks, such as sclerotized cuticle and byssal threads of the mussel, have been shown to exhibit excellent mechanical properties. A lot of effort has been devoted to mimicking the natural proteins using synthetic catechol-functionalized polymers. Despite the success in developing catechol-functionalized materials, the crosslinking chemistry of catechols is still a subject of debate. To develop materials with controlled and superior properties, a clear understanding of the crosslinking mechanism of catechols is of vital importance. This review describes the crosslinking pathways of catechol and derivatives in both natural and synthetic systems. We discuss existing pathways of catechol crosslinking and parameters that affect the catechol chemistry in detail. This overview will point towards a rational direction for further investigation of the complicated catechol chemistry.